Chapter 12: Snatch Operation
Friday August 21, 2026
Regimental HQ, SAS Barracks
Credenhill, Herefordshire, England
After congratulating Michael and Sarah, The Cartel’s contact exits the RHQ and heads toward the main gate, hoping to catch a ride to Hereford. The debriefing hadn’t explained why there was another mock-up of Swan’s Mill at PATA and why half of the Army Ranger Wing were still training there when the assault commenced, but there’s only one possible explanation. The UKSF Group must have figured out that someone at PATA is a Cartel member and hoped to misinform The Cartel that Alwyn and the Army Ranger Wing would enter from the ground floor when assaulting Swan’s Mill. This misinformation enabled the SAS to secure the upper floors of Swan’s Mill without any drama. The contact now feels extremely guilty for providing the wrong information to Patrick, which resulted in the massacre of Swan’s Mill without a single SAS casualty.
The contact was close to Muireann and when the CCTV recording showed Robert blowing her head off, the contact got emotional and almost shouted out in anger. This didn’t happen, thanks to the Resistance to Interrogation (R2I) training everyone in the UKSF has had to attend. Now is the time to avenge Muireann and everyone at Swan’s Mill. Now is the time to desert from the military and fully join The Cartel.
“Going somewhere, Sin?” asks George from behind, grinning from ear-to-ear.
“Why do ye ask? Are ye offering me a ride to Hereford?” asks The Cartel member. “And quit calling me ‘Sin’!”
George laughs out loud on seeing his friend’s pout. He also knows that his close friend’s accent always reverts to Irish whenever stressed out, which is hilarious. “Cormac’s taking us for some scoff and a piss up at the Grafton Restaurant, but we all have to head back to our flats to change into mufti before we go. I’m really hungry now, so how about we grab some scoff at the cookhouse before I drop you off at your flat?”
The contact’s flat is right next to George’s, so it makes sense to go with him. While walking to the cookhouse with him, the contact sends a text to Patrick.
Friday August 21, 2026
Nether Alderley, Cheshire, England
Patrick receives a text from his British Army contact, saying that one of the SAS men who assaulted Swan’s Mill will drive his contact home. His contact wants to snatch George and hand him over to Niall as revenge for his part in killing Muireann and her men. Patrick immediately responds, ordering his contact to stand down. The Cartel will avenge Muireann, but this is not the way to do it. They won’t touch anyone from the SAS.
Feeling overwhelmed by rage and hatred, the contact decides to ignore Patrick’s order.
Friday August 21, 2026
Hereford, Herefordshire, England
After changing into mufti, Cormac treats Sarah, Michael, Robert, Al, Mark, Pierce, and Dave to dinner at the Grafton Restaurant, not far from Michael’s flat. George was invited too, but he excused himself first to take their friend home. He will join them later at the restaurant for drinks.
All through dinner, they give Michael a slagging for his cheap, public proposal and for the terrified look on his face. After dinner, they make their way through several pitchers of Brains beer while waiting for George, who still hasn’t arrived yet. They keep glancing at Sarah as they drain their beer.
“Come on then. You numbskulls look like you’re about to burst,” says Sarah, accepting her fate. “Just let it out and let me have it.”
“Oh, we’ll definitely take the piss out of you in a minute, Sarah, but we’re not quite finished with Michael yet,” says Dave.
“That’s right,” says Cormac. “So, Michael, what’s this ‘for King and Country’ shit you said after the operation?”
“Yeah, I’ve never heard you say shit like that before,” says Pierce in his Scottish burr. “And why not add ’Éirinn go Brách’ while you’re at it?”
“Oh, I bet he said it just because he wanted to sound heroic for Sarah. We all know how orgasmic she finds his voice,” quips Mark. “Isn’t that right, Sarah?”
Sarah’s face turns red and her friends laugh out loud. Her husky ‘Yes, sir’ from during the briefing is coming back to haunt her. It’s lucky that George hasn’t arrived yet, as she knows he’d be the worst of the lot.
‘Here we go…’ thinks Sarah, preparing herself for the onslaught.
“You were at the FOB, Mac. Did Michael’s command voice make her writhe in ecstasy?” asks Robert.
Cormac snorts. “You can bloody imagine what she went through when Michael said ‘for King and Country, stronghold secured’ in his posh accent… She almost came just watching him conduct the bloody briefing!”
Sarah gets so embarrassed she has to cover her face with both hands, making her friends roll with laughter. Knowing this lot, they will never let her live that down. The only answer is to give as good as she gets. She has an idea, but she must wait for the right moment.
Dave continues. “There’s nothing to be ashamed about, Sarah. Watching our gallant OC conduct a briefing arouses all of us, you know.”
Everyone howls with laughter.
George suddenly arrives, so Sarah grits her teeth. He seems to know instinctively what they’re all talking about and jumps right in. “I bet as foreplay, Michael gives Sarah the Five Paragraph Order for what he’ll do to her in bed,” he says, pouring himself a pint of beer.
“Does that make you ‘stand to attention’, Sarah?” asks Pierce.
“If Sarah ‘stands to attention’, I’m sure Biggus Dickus does the same,” says Mark, grinning from ear to ear.
“And if you salute his Biggus Dickus, is it able to return it?” asks Al.
Everyone laughs out loud, including Sarah this time.
“No briefings are necessary, you muppets,” says Michael, “because every one of them were Immediate Actions. Sarah uses the colour clock code and she says things like, ’that’s enough of my Red-3 and Green-9, sayang. You may now execute the entry at White-6.’”
Everyone can imagine what Michael meant and they all laugh hysterically… except for Sarah, who is giving her fiancé a nasty look.
‘Watch it, Michael!’ she thinks, although she has to admit that Michael’s joke is really funny.
“Wait, wait, wait!” says George as the laughter finally starts coming to an end. “We have to be absolutely clear on this one. Is your White-6 the bottom part of the stronghold or the top part, Sarah?”
“Whichever turns you on, you bloody wanker!” answers Sarah. “Feel free to use your bloody imagination.”
“I’ll drink to that!” says George, laughing loudly.
They all drink their beer and this is the golden opportunity Sarah was waiting for. “Did Michael get the chance to tell you about the time I had sex with another woman?”
Everyone chokes on their drinks and spouts beer from their mouths. As she’d expected, their beer drenches Michael, who is giving them a dirty look.
Sarah gives everyone a satisfied smile. “Ah, well, it’s too bad you wankers won’t get to hear that story today.”
The men can only look at Sarah with open mouths as she grabs Michael’s arm and exits the restaurant. They look like they really want to hear that story right this instant.
Saturday August 22, 2026
Nether Alderley, Cheshire, England
A few hours earlier, the Cartel’s contact ate dinner with George and thought about snatching him. Unfortunately, George is a jap-slapping instructor and has the muscles and ability to match. The contact realized that snatching him without drama would be almost impossible and wisely dropped the plan. The contact’s now driving a sports car towards The Cartel’s HQ in Cheshire.
It takes almost four hours to get there. The leaders of The Cartel are waiting as a welcoming committee. They all embrace, to say hello and to mourn fallen comrades. They share a bottle of whiskey during the debrief. The contact describes everything, from the mock-training drill designed to trick The Cartel, to the debriefing of Operation Crankshaft. All gathered (except Niall) grow emotional hearing Muireann’s fate. No one blames their contact for the misleading information and Patrick is still immensely proud of the ex-UKSF member. He assures everyone that this time they will avenge Muireann and the men of Swan’s Mill. Niall finally looks excited when Patrick tells them that he plans on snatching Sarah.
Saturday August 22, 2026
Nether Alderley, Cheshire, England
That afternoon, the senior members plan for Sarah’s snatch. Through their contact at the GMP, they receive intel that Sarah run-commutes every day, but no one in the GMP knows where she lives. Sarah is unpredictable in her routes going home from work and it’s impossible to follow her leaving GMP HQ. They’ve checked the 3Towers Apartment, but Michael has already moved and didn’t leave a forwarding address or phone number. Michael’s old number is already inactive, though they still have his Range Rover Evoque’s Vehicle Registration Number.
The ex-UKSF member told the others that Michael is still ‘On The Team’, meaning that he’s on twenty-four hour standby from Saturday to Tuesday evening and has to stay within thirty minutes of the Credenhill barracks. He has Wednesday to Friday to spend time with Sarah. Every Saturday morning, he leaves his car at Manchester Piccadilly and takes the train to Hereford. The Cartel decide that following Michael’s car to his new flat when he returns from Hereford is the only way to find out his new address. Someone will standby at Manchester Piccadilly until he returns from Hereford, at which point he’ll give the others a heads up. The others will then take turns following him. If they know where Michael’s staying, they’ll know where to find Sarah.
The intelligence operation to tail Michael will be quite challenging, considering that he’s a pro. Patrick doesn’t want to take any chances so he will deploy everyone from HQ to follow their target from Manchester Piccadilly to his address. They’re all trained by Rory and the ex-UKSF member in surveillance and counter-surveillance, giving them the skills to follow Michael without being spotted and to avoid GMP detection after they’ve snatched Sarah. The ex-UKSF member also trains them in CQB.
The day of the snatch comes. Michael returns from Credenhill on Tuesday evening and members of The Cartel start tailing him. Michael conducts counter-surveillance drills on leaving the station, but The Cartel members were expecting that and it doesn’t give them any problems. They take turns following him to avoid detection and follow him all the way to Stay Deansgate Apartments. Rory confirms that Sarah is living there by getting her flat number from the apartment’s administrator. They plan on snatching her on Saturday when she runs to work and after Michael leaves for Hereford. This will give them the maximum possible time before Michael and the SAS can realize she’s been snatched.
Niall and the ex-UKSF member want to snatch Michael too, but Patrick, Steve, Rory, and Carraig insist on leaving him alone. The SAS would surely take things personally and with the MACP still in effect, they wouldn’t need authorization from the civil authority to hunt the rest of The Cartel down. This would be bad for business.
Unfortunately, Rory can’t lead the operation because he has to go to Jakarta to prepare Phase Five. Patrick will join him once this operation is over. Steve volunteers to lead the mission, but Patrick forbids him and picks Carraig instead because of his IRA experience. He makes the ex-UKSF member Carraig’s 2 i/c. Gwilliam, who has abandoned his clubs since the assault on Swan’s Mill, will take over their factory in Liverpool while Carraig leads this operation. Niall will also be waiting at Liverpool.
Saturday September 26, 2026
Stay Deansgate Apartments
Deansgate, Manchester, England
Since August, Michael has been living in Sarah’s flat. They decided Michael’s flat would be too risky. If there’s a leak, the leak’s in the UKSF Group. Michael admits that some of his friends in the UKSF know he stays at the 3Towers Apartment during his work in Manchester. But nobody knows where Sarah lives, not even Densus or NCB Indonesia, which makes her flat the more secure of the two.
They’re now living together, but they will have to wait until their assignment is over before getting married. Broussard would surely ask one of them to withdraw from his team if they were married any earlier. Although Broussard knows they are romantically involved, he doesn’t know and doesn’t have to know that they’re engaged.
This morning, Sarah does her daily crunches while Michael watches her exercise from the bed. Watching Sarah do her exercise is much better than watching the telly, especially when she does it with her shirt off.
“Come down here and join me, sayang,” asks Sarah for the umpteenth time.
Michael only grins as he caresses his fiancée’s perfect body, which seems to feel harder every day.
“Come on, Michael. My mum has three children and she has better abs than you,” says Sarah, pouting at him.
“Your mum has a six-pack?” asks Michael, intrigued.
“Of course she does. Now come down here and exercise with me!”
“Only after you’ve managed to defeat me in our run to the office,” says Michael with his signature cheeky grin.
Sarah’s pout gets bigger. Despite his pot belly, Sarah has to admit that Michael is actually in better shape than she is. Whenever Michael is in Manchester, they always run-commute together and once they reach Oldham Rd, they always race to GMP HQ. Michael wins every single time.
Sarah’s almost finished her workout when she notices Michael’s expression. “Qu’est-ce qui va pas, sayang?”
Michael is silent for a moment before answering her. “Have you ever thought about what we will do after we get married?”
Sarah continues her crunches and doesn’t immediately answer. Although Sarah’s parents know that she loves her job in Densus, they’ve always hoped that one day she will build a family like her brother. Sarah once thought about this and had decided she would be willing to give up her career if she ever found someone she could be proud of and look up to. Sarah’s finally found that person in Michael and, in fact, she even considers him her hero and her idol. For Sarah, being in the same room with Michael feels like being in the same room with a rock star or a famous Hollywood actor. Although Sarah loves working at Densus, she can’t imagine living without Michael by her side. She feels lonely and can’t sleep well whenever he’s away for a few nights on the 30 Minutes Team at Credenhill.
“I guess I’ll have to resign from the INP and move to Hereford with you,” says Sarah, sadly. “Who knows? Maybe the West Mercia Police needs someone with my background?”
“But you have an excellent career in Densus. Why would you want to sacrifice that for me?” asks Michael.
“Sacrifice my career for you?” asks Sarah, looking deep into his eyes. “Je mourrais pour toi, Michael.”
Michael can see that Sarah is serious and he’s touched. He then decides something. “What if I resign my commission and move to Indonesia with you?”
Sarah is shocked! She hadn’t expected Michael to offer to sacrifice his career for her. None of her previous partners would do that and they had even asked her if she would resign from the INP in the event they took their relationship to the next level. She finally finishes her workout and looks deep into his eyes. She can see that he’s serious too.
“Why would you want to do that?” asks Sarah.
“I want you to be happy, mo ghile mear,” answers Michael.
“But what would you do in Indonesia?” she asks, her eyes getting moist.
“You once said your mum needs someone to run the family business, right? Well, I don’t mind running your family business. If your mum would let me, of course,” says Michael. “If not, well, I’ll just have to find another job or start a business of my own.”
Sarah thinks hard for a moment. Michael’s offer is interesting and she’s sure that her mum would entrust her company to Michael. He’s willing to sacrifice his career in the British Army for her and she loves him even more for that. On the other hand, no matter how well Sarah does in her own career, she realizes that she will never be the Chief of the INP (Kapolri). There would be too many political factors standing in her way, protesting her gender or her religion. Compared to much of the rest of the world, Indonesia is still primitive in these aspects. For the same reasons, Sarah can’t even imagine herself becoming the commander of Densus-88. Her career in Indonesia will only ever go so far.
Michael, though, is a highly decorated British Army officer, and Sir Charles once said that the British Army would surely look after his career. Michael could reach Director Special Forces one day and Sarah is sure that he could eventually become the Chief of the General Staff. With his achievements so far, Sarah can even imagine him as a future Chief of the Defence Staff.
Sarah makes a decision. “No, Michael, it doesn’t make sense for you to come to Indonesia. I will submit my resignation when all of this is over.”
Michael doesn’t say anything and Sarah can tell he has mixed feelings about this.
“I really love my job at Densus, sayang, but I love you even more,” says Sarah, firmly once again. She will fully support her future husband until he reaches the pinnacle of his career.
Michael smiles at her and gets down from the bed. He kisses her on her hard, sweaty stomach, the same way he always does after she finishes her crunches. But then he lies down beside her and starts doing sit-ups. Michael absolutely hates doing sit-ups, but he knows it’s something that would mean a lot to Sarah and there’s nothing he wouldn’t do for her.
Sarah gives him a broad smile. She can’t even imagine she could love him more than this. In the end, Michael has only done a few sit ups when Sarah suddenly jumps on top of him and gives him a loving kiss on his lips.
“Je t’aime tellement, Michael,” says Sarah, eyes moist as she looks deeply into his eyes.
“Aku cinta padamu juga, mo ghile mear,” answers Michael, smiling back at her. I love you too, my gallant darling.
Saturday September 26, 2026
Deansgate, Manchester, England
“They’re fucking late,” says Carraig.
“Patience, Frag,” replies the ex-UKSF member.
“What if she’s taking the day off this weekend?” asks Carraig.
“She never takes a day off,” says the ex-UKSF member, trying to be patient with all the amateurs in this operation.
Michael usually leaves at eight and Sarah starts her run to work not long after that. They’ve been waiting since seven in the morning, but Michael hasn’t left the flat yet.
One of The Cartel members assigned to the Observation Post at the Deansgate Hot Food Bar suddenly sees Michael’s Range Rover Evoque pass by the bar at high speed.
“Zero, this is Delta. Heads up! Target Mike is mobile to the North,” he says through his smartphone in conference call mode.
“Zero roger,” answers Carraig. “All call signs, standby for the snatch.”
All they have to do now is wait for Sarah to come out of her flat.
Saturday September 26, 2026
Central Park, Manchester, England
“Sorry I’m late!” says Sarah, red-faced as she enters the meeting room. Today’s the first time she’s ever been late to work, even though she took Michael’s car instead of run-commuting.
Broussard and her teammates don’t seem to mind. This Saturday, the Interpol team, except for Michael, plans to discuss the SSE results. Michael’s schedule changed starting today, meaning he will now be in Manchester from Saturday till Tuesday and in Credenhill the rest of the week. Michael took temporary leave from his Interpol duties so he could organize the routine amendments that accompany a change in schedule.
As Sarah came in, Paul had been presenting the results of his investigations these past few weeks. Since the assault on Swan’s Mill, the price of MDMA has tripled in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. However, Arthur’s investigations indicate that the price remains stable in Great Britain. They can safely conclude that Swan’s Mill must’ve only supplied Ireland, meaning there are probably more drug factories in Great Britain. James and Paul’s investigation shows that The Cartel have successfully smuggled MDMA from Indonesia routinely every two months for almost two years.
James presents the SSE results of MV Báinigh. According to the manifest, the ship was carrying turbines for oil & gas companies operating in the North Atlantic Sea produced by PT. Horizon Turbines and Propulsions, a company in Citeureup, Bogor, West Java. Inside the containers, they found residue of MDMA and raw materials for processing MDMA. The INP must discreetly investigate the turbine company to determine whether or not they are involved with The Cartel. If the company turns out to be clean, Sarah has a suspicion that the lorry carrying the turbines took a detour to another company to pick up the goods before finally heading for the Kalibaru Port.
With so little information available on The Cartel’s presence in Indonesia, Sarah needs to follow up every possible lead. Unfortunately, because Swan’s Mill is no longer active, The Cartel will probably change their previous MO, so Sarah can only investigate the standard route the lorry would’ve made towards the Kalibaru Port and have the Bogor Police Precinct investigate all companies, especially foreign companies, close enough to be possible pick-up points. The Bogor Police also have to locate, apprehend, and interrogate the driver from PT. Horizon Turbines and Propulsions.
Matt and the PSNI have apprehended all of the prostitutes and all of the distributors seen entering Swan’s Mill. PSNI are still interrogating them. The distributors, who are all female, had been disguising themselves as prostitutes to visit Swan’s Mill and each day they’d taken thousands of MDMA pills to be distributed to dealers at Gwilliam’s clubs all around Ireland. Now they have enough evidence to apprehend Gwilliam O’Donnel but, unfortunately, he’s disappeared.
Liz presents Garda’s investigation results. There were ninety-four dead bodies at Swan’s Mill, including Muireann de Buitléir. The number of bodies, weapons, and MDMA pills has overwhelmed the Buncrana Garda Station, forcing them to ask assistance from Garda HQ. Among the most surprising things uncovered are wedding pictures of Muireann and Patrick Dunbar, confirming that Muireann is a senior member of The Cartel. Unfortunately, there is absolutely no information showing the location of their HQ or other factories, including the one in Indonesia. Muireann successfully destroyed all documents and destroyed her smartphone before getting killed.
Towards lunch time, Broussard emphatically reminds his team to always follow tradecraft. The Cartel will surely try to avenge the death of their leader’s wife. Broussard also announced that because Michael was still seconded to Interpol team during the assault, the Home Office has decided that his KGM will be upgraded to a George Medal (GM) for his role in combating narcoterrorism. The George Medal is the second highest medal for civilians, but soldiers may be invested with it also. Sarah is immensely proud of her fiancé and sends him a text.
Michael immediately returns her text. ‘Can you come home for scoff?’
‘See you in 30 mikes, sayang,’ writes Sarah.
Michael replies to her text with a smiley. First she was late to work and now, for the first time ever, she wants to skip out early. This is quite a day of firsts for Sarah…
Saturday September 26, 2026
Stay Deansgate Apartments
Deansgate, Manchester, England
“Fuck!” curses the ex-UKSF member. “I guess you’re right, Frag, she’s taking the day off today. We’ll just have to go in and snatch her.”
After having waited for five frustrating hours, Carraig agrees – it’s time to go into Sarah’s flat and complete the mission.
“All call signs, this is Zero and I have control. We’re going in her flat for the snatch. We deploy in five, four, three, two, one, go!” orders Carraig into his smartphone.
Twelve people debus from their cars and ascend in the lift towards Sarah’s flat.
Saturday September 26, 2026
Stay Deansgate Apartments
Deansgate, Manchester, England
Michael receives a text from Sarah saying she’s on her way home. As per SOP, Michael immediately deletes the text. He’s just finished making some sandwiches for his fiancée when there’s a soft knock on the door. Michael is about to look through the peephole when the door suddenly slams into his face! Michael is floored, blood gushing out of his nose and mouth, and twelve people clad in balaclavas storm in. Michael can only cover his bloody nose and mouth with his hands when a boot slams on his chest, pinning him to the floor. A pistol is pointed towards his head and somebody gives him a thorough frisk.
From the corner of his eye, Michael can see four people pointing their pistols at his head, preventing him from escaping. If a soldier has been captured by the enemy, the time to escape is as soon as possible. Unfortunately for Michael, his ambushers seem to be aware of this.
“X-Ray secured!” says the person who frisked him.
“Clear!” says the person tasked to secure the bedroom.
“Clear!” says the person tasked to secure the bathroom.
“Stronghold secured!” says the person pointing a pistol at his head.
Michael can immediately identify that voice. “You…”
Michael doesn’t get the chance to finish when a vicious kick lands on his mouth.
“Where the fuck is she?” asks the ex-UKSF member, angrily.
“Not here… obviously,” says Michael, sarcastically.
As he’d expected, Michael receives another vicious kick to his face. While his ambushers are distracted, Michael discreetly writes three letters on the floor in his own blood. He has just finished when someone binds his hands together with duct tape. Another of his ambushers twiddles with his smartphone.
“Yer choice is simple, ye dickhead. Give us her fucking phone number or ye’ll take her place!”
“Are you seriously planning to snatch a squadron OC of The Regiment, Sin?” asks Michael, cynically.
The ex-UKSF member gets angry and gives Michael an extremely powerful kick, fracturing his cheekbone. “Give us her fucking phone number! I won’t ask ye again!”
“You’re wasting your time. You can just slot me on the spot or snatch me. Make a decision, you muppet!” says Michael. He has to provoke them into making a quick decision because Sarah will be here at any moment. No matter how good Sarah is, Michael knows that she can’t possibly take on twelve Cartel members by herself… especially when one of them is a special forces operative!
The ex-UKSF member falls silent for a moment before giving Carraig an order. “Take him!”
“Paddy said not to touch him!” protests Carraig.
“I know what he fucking said. Take him!”
“I’m in command of this fucking operation!” shouts Carraig.
The ex-UKSF member points the gun towards Carraig’s head. “Take him or I’ll shoot yer fucking head off!”
Carraig’s not happy, but he can’t do anything about it. He curses out loud and orders the others to bring Michael. Although Michael is anxious about his fate, at least he’s prevented them from snatching someone he loves very much.
Saturday September 26, 2026
Stay Deansgate Apartments
Deansgate, Manchester, England
As usual, Sarah takes the stairs to her flat. As soon as she enters, she senses something’s not right. She sees blood on the floor and pulls out her pistol from her IWB holster. Sarah locks the door to her flat and starts securing the rooms. There are no signs of Michael, so she has to assume the worst has happened. Sarah calls her commander.
“Yes, Sarah?” answers Broussard, chewing on his lunch.
“Chief, I’m at my flat. Michael was supposed to meet me here for lunch, but there are signs that he’s been snatched. There’s blood on the floor,” says Sarah.
‘Oh, please, not again,’ thinks Broussard, worriedly. “I’m coming over with Paul and the GMP. Lock the door, wait for us, and make ready your sidearm, is that clear?”
“I’ve already done that,” replies Sarah.
“Good! In the meantime, James will try to trace Michael’s whereabouts using his smartphone number. When we get to your flat, I’ll say a number and then you will say a number. The sum of those two numbers should add up to the number eight. This is our password before you open the door. Is that clear?”
“Clear, Chief!” Her commander has given her a simple password so they can ensure Sarah is behind the door to her flat.
“Stand firm until we get there!” orders Broussard, hanging up.
Sarah takes the initiative and calls Cormac. His phone is busy so she calls Derek Sinclair.
“Yes, Sarah?” asks Derek, pleasantly surprised.
“Lance-Corporal, heads up and write this down,” says Sarah in her calm and assertive voice.
Derek is taken aback by Sarah’s command voice and follows her orders without question. “Ready to copy.”
“I’m at my flat. Michael was supposed to be here, but there are signs that he’s just been abducted. We have to assume the worst case, that he was snatched by members of The Cartel. Could you please inform your CO about this immediately, Lance-Corporal?” orders Sarah.
Derek is silent for a few seconds, stunned from what he’s just heard. Criminals would never dare do something like this – not to a member of the SAS!
Sarah’s about to repeat her order when Derek finally answers her. “Right, let me contact the head shed and we’ll get right back to you.” He hangs up.
Sarah finally hears the sirens of the GMP. While waiting for them, she examines the blood on the floor and notices the letters ‘N’, ‘I’, and ‘S’. She’s about to take a picture with her smartphone when it suddenly rings.
It’s Cormac. “Sarah, I’m at The Kremlin and Derek is here with me. Could you please send your sitrep?”
Sarah tells him everything and her report takes a minute. “MI5 is trying to track Michael via his smartphone number and I’m currently waiting for my teammates to arrive.”
Like Derek, Cormac goes silent for a few seconds. “Be on high alert before your reinforcement arrives. Let me brief the Director and I’ll get back to you. Thanks for the heads up!” He hangs up.
A loud knock comes from the door. Sarah immediately stacks next to the door with her pistol at low ready.
“Sarah, this is Christopher Broussard with Paul Elliot. Open the door, please. The number is three.”
“This is Sarah and the number is five,” says Sarah. She opens the door and lets Broussard and Paul in.
“Right, we will consider your apartment a crime scene and this will be the GMP’s jurisdiction,” says Broussard. “Paul, please coordinate with the GMP Criminal Investigation Department when they arrive.”
“Reet,” answers Paul, crouching to examine the blood on the floor.
“Let me contact Michael’s commanding officer,” says Broussard, taking out his smartphone.
“I’ve already updated Cormac. He will contact me again after he has briefed the Director.”
“Very good, Sarah,” says Broussard.
“There’s some writing on the floor with the letters ‘N-I-S’. Michael’s probably trying to tell us that Niall Schroeder snatched him,” says Sarah. She remembers that his full name is Niall Iollan Schroeder.
“Is it ‘N-I-S’,” says Paul, “or ‘S-I-N’? I’ll have the GMP Crime Scene Investigators immediately find out what it says by analysing the strokes of the writing.”
Sarah suddenly feels incredibly stupid! She gets angry at herself for assuming the letters are ‘N-I-S’ and not spotting that upside down they read ‘S-I-N’. Paul notices Sarah’s reaction and gives her a wink and a smile, calming her down. She takes a deep breath and finally returns his smile. Meanwhile, the GMP arrive at her apartment.
“Any news from James, Paul?” asks Sarah.
Paul shakes his head in frustration. “Michael’s smartphone is already inactive.”
“Sarah, please return to GMP HQ and be on high alert en route,” orders Broussard. “I’ll have one of the GMP constables escort you there. Could you please coordinate with the others and try to figure out what this bloody ‘N-I-S’ or ‘S-I-N’ means?”
“Right, Chief!” says Sarah as she’s leaving her flat.
They arrive at GMP HQ in under ten minutes and Sarah immediately briefs her team. From the crime scene, Broussard and Paul have asked the GMP to deploy all assets to search for Michael. The GMP immediately send police officers to set up Vehicle Check Points (VCP) on all roads heading out of the city. Sarah suggests to Broussard that Cormac be appointed as Michael’s temporary replacement so that the military can also be deployed to help find him. Broussard immediately agrees and Sarah calls Cormac to tell him about it. Cormac has no problems with that, but he will first have to ask permission from the Director.
Paul sends a text to the team and tells them that the GMP Crime Scene Investigators’ preliminary analysis indicates the letters are ‘S-I-N’, not ‘N-I-S’. The letters have Michael’s fingerprints on them. Paul also sends them the CCTV recordings from the building, on which they can see twelve people in balaclavas entering Sarah’s flat. They snatched Michael within three minutes and took him down by the lift, where they pushed him into a black Range Rover parked outside. The police at the VCPs are ordered to be extra careful when stopping that kind of car. Unfortunately, no CCTV cameras caught sight of the Range Rover’s plate number.
The CCTV shows that there were only thirty seconds between Michael getting snatched and Sarah entering her flat. Sarah is stressed out thinking she could’ve saved Michael. If only she’d been quicker up the stairs or had used the lift. But her team remind her that she would’ve been killed or snatched along with Michael if she’d shown up during the snatch. Her teammates consider it lucky she didn’t show up in the middle of the attack. Sarah knows that her teammates are right, but she still feels guilty and frustrated for not arriving sooner. At this point, there’s nothing more the team can do except try to find out what Michael meant by those three letters.
“Is there anyone in The Cartel with those initials?” asks Arthur.
“None of them. Nor do any of them have a name or surname that starts with Sin,” says James, studying his file.
“Can we determine whether it is ‘S-I-N’ or ‘Sin’?” asks Matt.
They all look at the picture, but it could be either.
“Are we sure it’s Michael’s handwriting?” asks Liz.
“Has anyone seen his handwriting?” asks Arthur.
Everyone shakes their heads. Nowadays, everyone uses their tablets or smartphones to write.
“It could be The Cartel playing mind games with us,” says James.
“It’s better not to write anything at all, James. Why take a chance and leave evidence behind?” asks Matt. “Michael’s fingerprints are on those letters anyway.”
“But there’s no one in The Cartel with those initials!” says James, frustrated.
“No one we know,” says Arthur, frustrated as well.
Cormac texts them and tells them that he’s temporarily replacing Michael in the Interpol team. Every member of the UKSF Group has been deployed throughout the UK in the search for Michael, except for B Squadron, who are ‘On The Team’.
It’s getting dark outside and Sarah can’t do anything but study the CCTV footage. While studying the footage, she suddenly has an idea, because the body of one of the attackers reminds her of someone in the UKSF Group.
“Wait a minute! This team isn’t the only team Michael’s on. Maybe his friends in the SAS know what ‘S-I-N’ means,” says Sarah.
“Let’s give it a shot,” says Arthur.
Sarah calls Cormac.
“Yes, Sarah?” answers Cormac.
“Michael wrote a clue for us at the crime scene. We can’t figure it out, so maybe you could help us?”
“Sarah, I’m at B Squadron HQ and I have Robert, Al, George, and Dave with me and you are now on speaker. What can you tell us?”
“Let me send you a picture. Before Michael was taken, he wrote the letters ‘S-I-N’ in his own blood on the floor of my apartment. We think he was trying to identify one of the attackers. Do these letters ring any bells for you?” asks Sarah.
Cormac, Al, George, and Dave go dead silent and look at each other. Without looking at the picture, they know exactly what Michael meant when he wrote ’S-I-N’. Robert looks confused by the reaction of his teammates.
“Hello?” asks Sarah when no one says anything for a few seconds.
“Sarah, this is George. Are you sure Michael was writing ‘S-I-N’? I’m looking at the picture you sent and it could be ‘N-I-S’.”
“The thought crossed our minds, George, but the GMP Crime Scene Investigators who analysed the strokes said that it’s ‘S-I-N’. Why? Does ‘S-I-N’ mean anything to you?” asks Sarah, expectantly.
The SAS men are silent again and only look at each other except Robert, who’s still confused.
“Sarah, we have to discuss a few things,” says Cormac. “We’ll call you back, all right?”
It’s Sarah turn to be silent. She’s intrigued by their reaction, but she doesn’t want to pressure them.
“Right, thanks. I’ll wait for your call,” says Sarah, hanging up.
Her teammates look at her expectantly.
“It seems ‘S-I-N’ struck a nerve when I said it, but they won’t tell me about it yet,” says Sarah.
“At least there’s some progress,” says Matt.
Everyone nods and tries to go back to work. They find it hard to concentrate as they’re extremely worried about their teammate.
Saturday September 26, 2026
B Squadron HQ, SAS Barracks
Credenhill, Herefordshire, England
Back at Credenhill, the four men debate heatedly. As the most junior among them, Robert can only watch his teammates, not sure what’s going on.
“But it just can’t be, Mac!” argues George.
“We’ve had our suspicions for a while, George,” says Cormac.
“Do you have any proof?” asks Dave.
“Look, what I will say is off the record because it’s still an ongoing internal investigation and this is strictly confidential. All right?”
Cormac continues after he sees each one of them nod. “We have reason to believe that at least one member of the UKSF Group is involved with The Cartel. At PATA, there are eighty kilograms of PE4 that are unaccounted for and Sin was at PATA when it went missing. Most of that PE4 was then used to blow up the International Liaison Building in Dublin.”
“But hundreds of people have easy access to PE4 at PATA, Mac!” protests George.
“I’m not finished! We had two mock-ups with two different assault plans before the assault on Swan’s Mill. We gathered all the suspects and let them see the mock assault by the Army Ranger Wing. At least one of them alerted The Cartel. That’s why they were ready for us when we assaulted it. Sin was one of the suspects who saw it.”
Everyone is stunned as they hadn’t expected to find out there was a traitor in their midst.
“Furthermore, Sin hasn’t been seen for the last thirty days and is already considered AWOL.”
George is still not convinced, especially since he’s close to that person. “Being AWOL doesn’t mean Sin’s a member of The Cartel, Mac.”
“Does Michael know about this?” asks Al.
“I told him a few months ago and he agreed that Sin could be one of the prime suspects. For now, let’s just ask Sarah and hear what she thinks, all right?” asks Cormac.
“Don’t tell Sarah about Sin at first. Let’s hear whether Interpol has any suspects or any suspicions,” suggests Dave.
Everyone nods and Cormac calls Sarah, who picks up on the first ring.
Saturday September 26, 2026
Central Park, Manchester, England
“Mac, you are on speaker and I have the Interpol team with me.”
“Sarah, could we speak in private?”
Sarah becomes silent for a few seconds. “Do you want me to step out of the room?”
“Please,” says Cormac.
Sarah looks at her teammates who nod, understanding. Sarah goes into another meeting room, closes the door, and resets her smartphone to handset.
“I’m alone now, Mac.”
“Michael may have been referring to someone in the UKSF Group. Before we tell you who it is, does Interpol have any suspects?” asks Cormac.
“We have bugger all, Mac!” says Sarah, starting to get frustrated.
“Right, now bear with us for a minute, Sarah, because you have met this person before. If I asked you to guess who Michael was referring to, who would you suspect?”
Sarah is silent once again. She doesn’t like accusing someone without hard evidence.
“I think it’s Sheila,” she answers at last.
“Do you have anything to support that?” asks George sharply.
“I don’t have any evidence, but let me send you some files.”
Sarah finds the picture of Rory Hanrahan with a tall, fit, red-headed women with her back towards the camera, and sends it to Cormac. She also sends him the CCTV footage from her flat. “Just to remind you, that man is Rory Hanrahan and he’s the 3 i/c of The Cartel. At first, we thought the woman was Muireann de Buitléir, but the results of the photo analysis came out negative. We don’t have a positive ID on her, but both this photo and one of the snatchers from my apartment feels a lot like Sheila wearing a balaclava.”
“Michael has seen this photo too, right?” asks George.
“Don’t you think Michael would’ve recognized his ex-girlfriend?” asks George sharply.
“I don’t know what to say, George. What about you? You’ve dated her, right? Don’t you think that’s her?”
George becomes silent and he has to admit that the girl in the picture looks a lot like Sheila. However, George knows that the picture can’t be considered evidence of Sheila’s involvement.
“It could be someone who look likes her from behind. Even if it is her, talking to the 3 i/c of The Cartel doesn’t make her guilty. Remember, we’re running on gut feelings and razor thin evidence here,” says George.
“Mac, you said that S-I-N refers to someone at UKSF,” says Sarah. “Was that Sheila? Michael’s clue can only mean that she’s involved with his abduction.”
Cormac takes a deep breath before answering her. “You are correct, Sarah. Michael once said that dating her felt like committing a sin, because officers are not supposed to be in a relationship with ranking members. We all call her Sin as a joke after Michael dumped her, because it also happens to be the initials of her full name, Sheila Iona Neeson. Anyway, during Operation Rowman, when I told Michael that Sin… Sheila… was one of our suspects for involvement with The Cartel, he immediately agreed. He said she was far too wealthy for someone with her background. He also told me that one of the senior members of The Cartel was photographed talking to a woman matching her description, though they couldn’t identify her. Michael told me that he suspected Sheila had given The Cartel his phone number so the assassination team could track him and then finally attempted to assassinate both of you at Carluccio’s. She’s also one of the suspects for nicking the PE4 at PATA and leaking the assault plan of Swan’s Mill to The Cartel. She is currently AWOL and we don’t know where she is.”
Sarah’s response is immediate. “That’s more than enough for us to bring her in for questioning. But since she’s military, we’ll have to go through proper channels and have the Special Investigation Branch of the Royal Military Police follow this up. I’ll ask Liz to contact them immediately after this. Her husband happens to be in that unit.”
The CO of the SAS becomes silent. He sees Al slowly shake his head. “Is there any way we could keep this matter within the UKSF family, Sarah?”
It’s Sarah’s turn to be silent. She can guess what they’ll do to Sheila if she’s found guilty. Sarah’s afraid that one day, Sheila will just ‘disappear’. “You want to… take care of her yourself, don’t you?”
“Please,” answers Cormac.
Sarah is silent again for a moment. “This is against my oath as a law enforcement officer and Interpol agent, Mac… but the answer is yes.”
“Thank you for letting us do this,” says Cormac. “What’s the catch?”
“Let me in on your operation, Mac,” says Sarah.
“Deal!” says Cormac without having to think about it. “Even better, since we don’t have any experience in police investigation and detective work, you will have to lead the men on this and in finding Michael. What say you?”
Sarah is stunned. The CO of the SAS has just asked her to lead a team of the finest special forces unit in the world! She is flattered, but also extremely terrified of failing and disappointing them. “Mac… are you sure about this?”
“Michael and Al once told you that you would make an excellent troop commander someday, right?” asks Cormac curtly, starting to get impatient.
“I think so.”
“Well, the Director and I disagreed with them…”
“Oh…” says Sarah, disappointed.
“… because we think you have what it takes to be at least a squadron commander.”
Sarah is so flattered that she’s unable to say anything.
“Now, will you take command of this mission?”
“I’ll take it, Mac,” answers Sarah, confidently.
“Very good! I’ll have the Director contact your chief for your secondment to The Regiment. Your mission is to lead the team and do whatever it takes to save Michael. I say again, your mission is to lead the team and do whatever it takes to save Michael. Is that clear?”
“Now, what do you need from us?”
“I need info. What can you tell me about Sheila?”
“Let me go to The Kremlin to brief the Director about Sheila and about your secondment to The Regiment. I also have to coordinate with your chief regarding the secondment of His Majesty’s Armed Forces to the civil power. For now, George will brief you on Sheila,” says Cormac, giving George a sharp look.
George is still not convinced that his close friend in the SRR is involved with The Cartel. However, George does as he is ordered.
“So, what can you tell me about Sheila, George?”
“Sin was born in Newtonabbey, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. She joined the army when she was sixteen and immediately signed up for Selection for The Det after three years in the service. She has been with The Det ever since and was just recently promoted to Lance-Corporal.”
“What was her previous regiment?” asks Sarah, noting everything down on her tablet.
“The Royal Irish Regiment… but you can’t hold that against her! There are plenty of other men in The Regiment formerly from that unit,” says George.
“What do you know about her family?”
“She’s an only child. Her dad left her when she was two or three years old and her mother died just after she joined the army. Sin has her own car and a nice flat in Hereford.”
“What kind of car does she have?” asks Sarah.
George is silent for a moment before answering her. “An Aston Martin… but I once asked her how she could afford it and she told me she owns a warehouse that she leases to other people.”
“How did Sin get the money to buy a fucking warehouse?” asks Dave, incredulously.
“How the fuck do I know?” retorts George, starting to get angry.
“Enough!” snaps Sarah. “When was the last time anyone saw her?”
“Sin hasn’t been seen for more than thirty days,” answers Al. “Someone from her unit checked her flat and she wasn’t there and neither was her car. The Det have already listed her AWOL.”
“The last time I saw her was after the debriefing of Operation Crankshaft,” says George. “We had dinner at the cookhouse and then I dropped her off at her flat before I joined you blokes at the Grafton Restaurant.”
“Do you still have her smartphone number, George?”
“No… she changes it all the time. I don’t know why and I don’t have her latest number.”
“Does she own other property besides her flat and warehouse?” asks Sarah.
“The last time we met, she told me she was going home to her house in…” George suddenly stops.
“Her house is in Cheshire,” says George, starting to get a nasty feeling in his stomach.
Cheshire is an affluent area south of Manchester, about a thirty-minute drive from Deansgate.
“Right, this is the only lead we have. Do you have her address in Cheshire?”
George reluctantly gives her the address. Sarah can sense that George still doesn’t entirely believe that Sheila is involved with The Cartel.
“I can get there within the next forty-five mikes to conduct a one-up recce on Sheila’s house,” says Sarah. “In the meantime, could you please bring all the necessary kit and RV with me at her house? Be sure to bring some kit for me also.”
“Hold on a minute here!” snaps George. “We’re now accusing a member of the UKSF of being involved with The Cartel and snatching a squadron OC of The Regiment. Are we sure we want to go through with this?”
“This is the only lead we have, George, and we will act upon it. They could be torturing your squadron commander to death, por el amor de Dios! Now make a decision, eikel! Lead, follow, or get the fuck out of the way!” yells Sarah, unconsciously reverting back to her role as an Indonesian special forces commander.
The four men of the SAS are stunned by the assertiveness of their new commander, especially George, who looks shocked. Sarah briefly regrets yelling at George in front of his teammates, but she feels that he’s starting to hold her back. The four men are silent.
“I’m with you, Sarah. What about you blokes?” asks Al, giving his men a sharp look.
The three men nod, although George is still hesitant.
“Sarah, all four of us are with you on this. This 4-man team will drive directly to her house with all the necessary kit. ETA in about three and a half hours,” says Al.
“One more thing, Al. Could you please send me the blueprints and the 3D rendering of her house?” asks Sarah.
“Sure, I’ll send a request to The Kremlin and we’ll send it to you by e-mail.”
“How about satellite imagery?”
“We’ll have to go through MoD for that and they’ll have to make a request to the Yank’s NRO. I’m afraid it would take too much time, old buddy,” says Al.
“How about we have Simon fly a UAV over to Sheila’s house?” suggests Robert.
“Good idea, Robert!” says Sarah.
“I’ll ask the head shed,” says Al. “In the meantime, good luck and be careful when you conduct the recce, all roight?”
“Of course, Al, thank you.”
“And don’t worry about Michael. He’s big and ugly enough to endure anything they throw at him,” says Al, trying to calm her down.
Sarah laughs in spite of the situation.
Robert adds, “Once we save Michael, you can imagine the severe slagging he’ll get for letting himself get snatched and needing his fiancée to lead the team to rescue him.”
Sarah laughs again imagining just that. She loves the way these men use dark humour in dealing with bad news.
“And please don’t take Sin down before we get there,” says Dave, grinning. “I’d like to watch you do it.”
Sarah laughs louder while George gives Dave a cuff on his head.
“Of course, Dave. I’ll see you at Sheila’s house,” says Sarah. She hangs up and goes to her teammates. “This conversation is off the record, all right?”
Her teammates are curious, but they all nod.
“The SAS knows who Sin is, but they want to handle this matter themselves. They have seconded me to the SAS and they want me to lead them in handling this, but we need your full support on this mission. What do you think?”
The Interpol team is surprised and debate heatedly for a while because what Sarah and the SAS propose doing is against the law. However, their priority is to rescue Michael and the MACP is still in effect anyway, so the team quickly agree to help. Sarah calls Paul to ask him to check Sheila’s address. James gives Sarah a small camera for her recce that can upload pictures directly to an MI5 server. The pictures will be available for Cormac, Al, and the Interpol team to access on their tablets.
Sarah receives a text from Paul. The NCA reported that the house belongs to someone named Sheila Iona Neeson. It’s clear someone on Sheila’s UKSF salary could never afford a house so luxurious, so this substantiates the evidence against her. The NCA is now searching for other property under her name.
Cormac informs Sarah that the 4-man team has deployed to Sheila’s house. The rest of B Squadron will be deployed once Michael’s location has been confirmed and they’ll be led directly by the CO of the SAS. He sends the blueprint of Sheila’s house, already converted to 3D by The Kremlin, and tells her he has ordered Simon to fly a UAV to recce the house from the air.
Sarah studies the blueprint of Sheila’s house while James drives her home. Sheila’s house is on a six-and-a-half hectare property with its own lake. The main house has three floors - two above ground and one below. The stairs to the first floor are near the entrance hall. The first floor is solely for living quarters. There’s a master bedroom with two private bathrooms and changing rooms, and five other bedrooms, each with their own bathroom. The basement is mostly used for recreation and there’s also a plant room used for the central air conditioning and heating system.
The opulence of Sheila’s property doesn’t end there. Outside the house, there’s a garage big enough for four cars and, in the middle of the lake, there’s an island with its own summer house.
Sarah reaches her apartment, still full of crime scene investigators, and briefs Broussard and Paul on the plan. She then changes into a jumper, jacket, jeans, gloves, and boots, all black. She takes almost all her kit, including her Glock as her main sidearm, her HK P2000 with the extra mags sent by her dad for backup, a balaclava, handcuffs, and her Smith & Wesson knife. She also brings her lockpicking kit and a roll of black duct tape. Every special forces operative in the whole world knows not to forget duct tape on any type of operation. She must leave her telescoping baton behind because it makes a rattling sound whenever she moves and she can’t risk discovery.
Sarah’s driven by James again and she hides herself in the back seat, wearing her balaclava. She sends a text to Cormac and Al that she’ll be online with them throughout the recce. She puts the Bluetooth earset on her ear and makes a conference call with the two men plus James. All three of them can monitor Sarah’s movement through a UAV flown directly by Major Simon Stilwell.
It only takes them twenty minutes to arrive in Cheshire. Sarah and James agree to an ERV (emergency rendezvous) point, for which they pick the crossroad between Congleton Rd and Bollington Lane. The ERV can be used by Sarah if she’s compromised and needs a place to escape. James will standby a little further away from the ERV and he can get there within two minutes to pick her up. The ERV location is also conveyed to Cormac and Al.
James will drop Sarah some 500 metres from Sheila’s house at Bollington Lane. As she was trained to do, Sarah debusses from the car when it slows down turning towards Bollington Lane. Once out of the car, she immediately enters the treeline. Sarah does this flawlessly, and if someone was tailing their car, there’s no way they would have seen her debus.
“I’m foxtrot,” reports Sarah, meaning that she’s now on foot.
“Roger that,” answer Cormac, Al, and James through her Bluetooth earset.
According to the Google Earth images Sarah looked at before leaving Manchester, Sheila’s property is surrounded by trees that Sarah can use to approach her target. It’s already dark when Sarah enters the trees, so she forces herself to sit quietly and do nothing for five minutes. It takes up to forty minutes for eyes to fully adjust to the darkness, but she can see quite well within five. What she observed after she debussed and what she sees after those five minutes are almost entirely different. If her eyes are exposed to just a small amount of light, she’ll have to readjust all over again. Besides Sarah, her surroundings also have to adjust to her presence. After a couple of minutes, the sound of various insects start playing again, meaning that they no longer consider Sarah a threat.
After five minutes, Sarah closes her right eye and checks her position using Google Earth on her smartphone with just her left eye. This is so that her shooting eye, her ‘master eye’, won’t be exposed to the light from her smartphone. If she’s compromised, at least her master eye can still see in the dark.
Sarah stealthily walks towards Sheila’s house until she reaches the treeline that surrounds the property. She starts taking pictures of the house. She observes that The Cartel don’t place men on stag to guard the house, but dozens of outdoor CCTV cameras are installed everywhere. Assuming somebody’s watching the CCTV images, Sarah won’t be seen as long as she moves as slowly as possible. Besides taking pictures of the CCTV camera locations, Sarah also has to take pictures of possible entry points, like doors and windows. All the pictures she takes are directly uploaded to MI5’s server and Cormac, Al, and James can immediately study them. Sarah’s recce will be extremely useful in case the SAS needs to assault the place.
Sarah takes almost one-and-a-half hours to recce the whole property, including the main house, garage, and summer house. There are noises from inside the summer house, meaning that there are people inside and she conveys this to her team. Sarah can see two black Range Rovers in the open-door garage, but Sheila’s Aston Martin is nowhere to be seen. Sarah takes pictures of the number plates of both cars and James will coordinate with Paul to check on them.
Sarah’s now near the entrance to the property, around a hundred metres from the main entrance of the house. She notices that the door to the main entrance has an electronic lock. There’s no door lock and the occupants only have to enter a password to open the door. James asks Sarah to zoom-in with the camera and take close-up pictures of the electronic lock so he can identify the brand. Only a few minutes after the picture was uploaded, James can send them the master password from the manufacturer. It turns out MI5 has all the master passwords for all electronic locks of every brand in the world.
Paul reports that both Range Rovers belong to Sheila, which is odd. Why would she need two exact same cars? The NCA can’t determine if one of them was the vehicle used in Michael’s abduction.
“We are ETA one hour and thirty mikes away, Sarah,” reports Al.
“Copy,” whispers Sarah.
There’s nothing more Sarah can do except wait. For a few minutes, Sarah can only shiver from the cold and watch the entrance. After ten minutes of doing nothing, her worry for Michael is almost overwhelming her.
A sports car suddenly roars on Bollington Lane and enters the property. It’s a blood-red Aston Martin. Sarah takes pictures of it and slowly goes to a position where she can photograph the driver. Sarah sees Sheila exit the garage and head towards her house. Sarah wonders why Sheila doesn’t have a shirt on and is only wearing a white bra, light blue jeans, and army boots. Sarah takes pictures of her walking unevenly towards her house. Sheila enters the password and disappears inside. Less than a minute later, Sarah sees the lights on the right side of the house on the first floor turn on. Sarah can safely assume that Sheila has just entered that room.
“Heads up! Sheila has just arrived. She looks quite odd and I think she’s on the piss,” whispers Sarah.
“Roger that,” says Cormac, Al, and James, studying her photos.
“There are some stains on her jeans,” says James. “I’ll have MI5 analyse the photos.”
Sarah closes her right eye again and studies Sheila’s pictures.
“It looks like blood, James,” whispers Sarah, anxiously.
“It could be, but we can’t be sure without some photo analysis,” says James.
Her anxiety has reached its peak and Sarah suddenly makes a rash decision! She jumps out of the property and walks towards the entrance. She takes off her balaclava and wears it again as a cap, bundling her long hair into it. Sarah walks leisurely to the front door as if she belongs there.
From the UAV camera, Simon can see Sarah move towards the house and immediately reports to Cormac. “Boss, Sarah is foxtrot!”
“Sarah, what the fuck do you think you’re doing?” asks Cormac angrily.
“I’m going in for the infil,” whispers Sarah.
“Stand down and wait for us, damn it!” curses Al.
“Don’t risk it, Sarah!” says James, almost panicking.
Sarah ignores them and everyone starts cursing her all the way to the front door. When she reaches the door, Sarah holds her breath as she enters the password. The password is correct and Sarah can enter without any problems. The inside of the house is quite warm and comfortable, especially compared to the cold outdoors. Sarah can hear loud sounds of the telly from the family room and music blaring from the basement. Fortunately, the entrance hall isn’t visible from the other rooms, but there’s a CCTV camera pointed directly towards the front door. She heads for the stairs as if she has done this hundreds of times before.
“I’m complete,” whispers Sarah. “Lots of activity heard on the ground floor and basement.”
“Roger that!” says Cormac, fuming. No one in The Regiment is as reckless as Sarah’s being right now!
Once she reaches the first floor, Sarah remembers from the blueprint that the main bedroom is on her left. She can faintly hear a woman crying inside. Sarah must secure the other rooms before securing the main bedroom.
“I’m on the first floor,” whispers Sarah.
“Roger that. Al, step on it!” orders Cormac.
“Roger that!” answers Al curtly. They’re already driving way past the speed limit.
Sarah doesn’t see any CCTV cameras on the first floor so she covers her face with her balaclava again and takes out her knife. She moves stealthily like a ninja and, till now, no one seems to have realized that someone has infiltrated the house. Sarah heads toward the room she wants to clear first, which is located on White-6-1. She puts her ear next to the door and tries to hear if there’s any activity inside. She then carefully checks the knob to see if it’s locked. It isn’t, so Sarah enters to clear it. The bedroom and bathroom are empty so she exits and turns left. She must do the same thing in all the other rooms.
“Bedroom cleared, White-6-1,” whispers Sarah.
“Roger that,” says Cormac, his heart racing as he puts an ‘X’ on the blueprint.
“What the devil do ye mean by White-6-1?” asks James, looking confused studying the blueprint.
Sarah ignores him.
“Stay off the net, James!” orders Cormac.
Sarah walks towards the Green side. The next two doors are closets and she gives them both a quick look inside to clear them. There are now two doors facing each other in front of her. She checks them and both rooms are empty.
“Bedrooms cleared, White-7-1 and Black-11-1,” whispers Sarah.
“Roger that,” says Cormac, sounding increasingly tense.
Sarah goes to the next room. When she places her ear on the door, she can faintly hear someone snoring. Sarah remembers from the blueprints that beyond the door there is a hallway with a bathroom on the left. Sarah has no choice but to secure the bedroom first before securing the bathroom. Once she enters, the sound of snoring grows louder. Sarah starts walking slowly towards the sound. Sarah passes the door to the bathroom and when she reaches the end of the hallway, she sees someone sleeping on the bed, his torso covered by a blanket. Sarah carefully approaches the bed with her knife in a reverse grip.
A couple of metres from the bed, Sarah recognizes the sleeping person as Steve Dunbar, the little brother of Patrick Dunbar, and one of the leaders of The Cartel. Sarah’s job as a police officer is to apprehend Steve and bring him to justice. He can also tell her where the remaining factories are.
Very carefully, Sarah opens her bum bag. She’s just about to take out her handcuffs and duct tape when Steve suddenly wakes up. Steve’s eyes go wide when he sees someone dressed like a ninja in his room! Without hesitation, Sarah jumps on top of him and covers his mouth with her left hand, just before he screams in terror. Sarah immediately slams her knife into his chest. Steve’s face contorts in pain as the blade goes into his heart. With both of his hands, he tries to grab hold of Sarah. At the same time, an object drops loudly to the floor. Steve struggles furiously and they both fall to the floor. Sarah manages to clamp his mouth shut.
Steve grows weaker by the second and, once again, Sarah sees into someone’s eyes as his soul is taken by the Ángel de la Muerte. Steve’s eyes, that a few seconds ago looked surprised, terrified, and in pain, finally go blank. As with all the other criminals and terrorists Sarah has killed, this event will probably haunt her for the rest of her life.
After checking Steve’s pulse to confirm that he’s dead, Sarah pulls out the knife from his chest and cleans it with his shirt. She checks the object that fell to the floor and it turns out to be his pistol. In a way, it is lucky Steve woke up. If she’d tried to apprehend him as she’d planned, there’s a big chance he would’ve shot her with the pistol he kept beneath his blanket. Sarah regrets not being able to arrest him, but decides that from this moment on, she’s not a law enforcement officer. She’s now a soldier. A soldier’s job is to kill the enemy, not apprehend him.
Sarah clears the bathroom she’d passed. Although the bathroom is most certainly empty, she still has to clear it. After that, she forces herself to wait one minute to ensure no one’s coming to check on them. This gives her time to calm herself down.
“X-Ray down, bedroom cleared, Green-10-1,” whispers Sarah.
“Jesus fucking Christ!” curses Cormac.
“Fucking shit!” curses Al.
“Bloody hell!” curses James.
The three men curse simultaneously, making Sarah’s eardrums ring.
“Are you compromised?” asks Cormac, worriedly.
“Negative… I took him out with my knife.”
The three men curse again and even louder this time, making Sarah wince from the pain from her eardrums.
“How the fuck do ye know he’s an X-Ray?” asks James, emotionally.
Sarah doesn’t immediately answer him. She takes pictures of his dead body and sends them to the team. She then closes Steve’s eyes, lifts his body, puts him face down on the bed, and covers his waist with the blanket. Steve now looks as if he is sleeping.
“It’s Steve Dunbar and I’ve sent you his picture,” whispers Sarah. “This place could well be The Cartel’s headquarters.”
“Are you saying you’ve managed to slot Steve fucking Dunbar with just a fucking knife?” asks Cormac.
“Affirmative,” answers Sarah.
“Fuck!” curse Cormac and Al, sounding impressed.
Sarah suddenly remembers that the British Army doesn’t give soldiers knives other than bayonets. They’ve not been taught how to kill someone with a knife. Only James is unimpressed by Sarah’s actions.
“Bloody hell! We could have used the fucking intel from him. Ye’re a fucking police officer, for God’s sake! Ye’re supposed to apprehend him and bring him to justice, not kill him in cold blood!” says James angrily.
“Negative!” answers Sarah, suddenly feeling angry at James.
“Let’s discuss this another time, shall we? The team is ETA twenty mikes. Stand down until they get there!” orders Cormac.
“I still have two more rooms to clear and the last one is the Master Bedroom at Red-3-1. There’s a big chance Sheila’s in that room. We also need to know Michael’s location. Let me try to get a confession before you conduct a DA and kill everyone in the house,” she whispers.
They all go quiet. The SAS have enough evidence to conduct a Direct Action assault. However, Sarah’s also right. They should try to get information on Michael’s whereabouts from Sheila before they assault the building.
“The rest of B Squadron and I can carry out a full assault within the next forty-five mikes by heli. Al, set up OPs when you get there,” orders Cormac.
“Roger that,” answers Al.
“Sarah, you may proceed with caution,” orders Cormac.
“Copy!” whispers Sarah curtly, starting to get impatient.
Sarah clears the room across from Steve’s. No problem there. “Bedroom cleared, Green-8-1.”
“Roger that,” answers Cormac.
Sarah heads towards the master bedroom. She remembers from the blueprint that the door leads to a hallway and there’s another door to the right, leading to the changing room, which itself has another door leading to the bathroom. She’ll have to ignore those rooms to handle Sheila, the immediate threat.
“I’m going in the Master Bedroom at Red-3-1 to confront Sheila,” whispers Sarah.
“Roger that,” answer the three men, sounding far tenser than Sarah.
“Be careful and try to arrest her if she confesses,” reminds James.
“Copy,” answers Sarah in a noncommittal manner.
Sarah holsters her knife and takes out her Glock. She takes off her balaclava and sets her smartphone to record her conversation with Sheila. Very slowly, she turns the knob and enters the master bedroom. For some reason, Sarah feels much more anxious than she did taking on Steve Dunbar. There’s something that just doesn’t feel right.
What Sarah doesn’t realize is that when she set her smartphone to record the conversation, the setting on her smartphone automatically set it to speaker...